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Beyond Earthly Skies

Crystallised White Dwarf

11 Jun 2014, 22:00 UTC
Crystallised White Dwarf
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Using the Green Bank Telescope - the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, Kaplan et al. (2014) made observations of the pulsar PSR J2222-0137 and its invisible companion. A pulsar is basically a neutron star - an ultra-dense remnant core of a massive star. The observations showed that PSR J2222-0137 is 1.20 ± 0.14 times the Sun’s mass and its invisible companion is 1.05 ± 0.06 times the Sun’s mass. Both objects circle around each other with an orbital period of 2.45 days. The pulsar’s invisible companion tugs at the pulsar, allowing its presence to be inferred.Based on its measured mass, the pulsar’s invisible companion is not massive enough to be a black hole. Furthermore, the companion’s orbit is too circular for it to be another neutron star since neutron stars form in violent supernova explosions that would leave behind a system with a high eccentricity. Despite deep optical and near-infrared searches, the pulsar’s companion remained invisible. This suggests that the companion is likely a very old and very cool white dwarf with a surface temperature of less than 3000K. At such a temperature, it would be far cooler than any known white dwarf. The invisible white dwarf companion of ...

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